My father’s face was serious as he looked at me with morose eyes ”Maria, when are you going to think about settling down? You’re not getting any younger”.
What could I say to an old Greek man who just wanted to see his only daughter settled? How could I tell him that I had dreams of seeing the world, writing a book, volunteering in Africa, visiting my sponsored child in Bolivia? (where the children have no travelling shoes and having teeth is a blessing).
Not a picket fence in sight for me. This was so far removed from his world, I could never justify it and so I simply smiled and nodded.
The latter words of my dear father resonated all evening. His words were with me as I drew a bath, as I read my book and most poignantly, as I looked in the magnifying mirror scouring for new wrinkles.
Of course I know I’m not getting any younger….as females, aren’t we ALL aware of the looming terminal that we call old age? That pushy matron of a boss who hides behind the cunning guise of Mother Nature is omnipresent in our world.
What my father didn’t know, was that I had tried to have solid relationships, but the men were either non ambitious youngsters or serial philanderers.
My last relationship ended after 4 years after a distinct dissipation of trust. As I stood watching him walk away, up the hill, soon to turn right and be forever gone from my world, I wondered how many other people agreed that there was something very sad about watching the back of someone you love.
So it transpired that I found myself single again at the age of 28. (I know what you’re all thinking ”Pah! 28 is not old! Try reaching 40 years old”. In my defence, leaving your teens behind and realising that you are not immortal hits home pretty hard so please, read on with reserved judgement).
Yes, I was lamented for a while but I was really just exhausted. Not because I was a teacher and I worked in excess of forty hours a week, not including planning and marking time and not because I had a weekly column to write but the most exhausting thing about my world was the thought that I was getting older and therefore I was soon to lose my looks and be left on the proverbial shelf.
How is it that an educated woman with good friends, a rewarding job and good health could find herself worrying about her lips losing their youthful distension, or her eyes encountering the pitter patter of crow’s feet? Was I therefore leading a life that was really nothing but an oxymoron?
It’s easy to blame the media for this obsession with youth. After all, what do we see when we turn on the television or open a magazine? Smooth skin, wide eyed beauties with glossy hair and big, white teeth.
What is the girl in the magazine really saying with that lascivious smile? That she can conquer the world or that she at least is young enough to have a try? That it doesn’t matter if she makes a mistake because when you are young there is always tomorrow, always another chance?
Perhaps she is saying that her lack of wrinkles are a reflection of her few accomplishments on earth?
As humans, we are one of the few species who can recognise ourselves in a mirror, (as well as our faithful world dwellers, orang-utans and chimps). When I look in the mirror and I see I’ve aged, I am reminded of what I have or haven’t achieved. All the ventures I have ceased to undertake are now solid reminders on my once line free face.
So what can I do about it? The internet is bursting at the seams with advice and methods to maintain the multi billion pounds anti-ageing industry.
One option is to visit a top surgeon who can administer all of the current favourite procedures. Smooth skin? I can always lay down whilst the nurse smears acid on my face to deplete a few layers of skin. Bigger eyes? There are a queue of surgeons with an incisor ready to cut and lift. Crows feet bothering me? Nothing a little botulinus toxin can’t fix. Yes, with a bit of cash on my side, I can alter the way I look but the fact that there is no magic injection for making me see my achievements to date would surely be all the more palpable on a stretched face.
My thoughts are interrupted by the sound of letters dropping through my letterbox. I smile when I realise that I’ve received a letter from my sponsored child.
Almost instantly, my eyes brighten and widen immediately at his scrawls. In fact, they widen just enough to see the truth – my skin glows when I fill in forms to volunteer in Mozambique, when I donate to charity and when I carry that old man’s bags home for him. As for my crows feet, well I couldn’t erase them – because when I break in to a smile, they tell that child in my class just how well he has done.
Who can argue with the fact that I already have my very own anti-ageing remedy which I can inject in to my life as safely and as cheaply as possible. The concoction? It starts with science again. No, I’m not talking botox or acids. I know that I was definitely shaped by Darwinian natural selection to be empathetic – to help others.
My romance with my looks may be fleeting but my veritable relationship with my world is far more unequivocal.
On the shelf? I’d simply jump right down and put on my travelling shoes.